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enjoyment of God in his essence aimed at, as is regardless of Christ, and leaves him quite behind. But God will not be all in all immediately unto the church, until the Lord Christ hath fully delivered up the mediatory kingdomjunto him. And indeed the silence concerning Christ, in the whole of what is ascribed unto this contemplative prayer, or rather the exclusion of him from any concernment in it as mediator, is sufficient with all considerate persons, to evince that it hath not the least interest in the duty of prayer, name or thing.
Neither doth this imagination belong any more unto any other part or exercise of faith in this world; and yet here we universally walk by faith and not by sight. The whole of what belongs unto it, may be reduced unto the two heads of what we do towards God, and what we do enjoy of him therein. And as to the first, all the actings of our souls towards God belong unto our reasonable service; Rom. xii. 1. more is not required of us in a way of duty. But that is no part of our reasonable service, wherein our minds and understandings have no concernment. Nor is it any part of our enjoyment of God in this life. For no such thing is any where promised unto us, and it is by the promises alone that we are made partakers of the divine nature, or have any thing from God communicated unto us. There, seems, therefore, to be nothing in the bravery of these af fected expressions, but an endeavour to fancy somewhat above the measure of all possible attainments in this life, falling unspeakably beneath those of future glory. A kind of purgatory it is in devotion, somewhat out of this world and not in another; above the earth, and beneath heaven, where we may leave it in clouds and darkness,
Prescribed forms of prayer examined.
There are also great pleas for the use of prescribed limited forms of prayer, in opposition to that spiritual ability in prayer, which we have described and proved to be a gift of the Holy Ghost. Where these forms are contended for by men, with respect unto their own use and practice only, as suitable to their experience, and judged by them a serving of God with the best that they have; I shall not take the least notice of them, nor of any dissent about them. But whereas a persuasion not only of their lawfulness but of their necessity, is made use of unto other ends and purposes, wherein the peace and edification of believers is highly concerned, it is necessary we should make some inquiry thereinto. I say, it is only with respect unto such a sense of their nature, and necessity of their use, as give occasion, or a supposed advantage, unto men, to oppose, deny, and speak evil, of that way of prayer, with its causes and ends, which we have described, that is, that any way consider these forms of prayer, and their use. For I know well enough, that I have nothing to do to judge or condemn the persons or duties of men in such acts of religious worship, as they choose for their best, and hope for acceptance in, unless they are expressly idolatrous. For unless it be in such cases, or the like, which are plain either in the light of nature, or Scripture revelation, it is a silly apprehension, and tending to atheism, that God doth not require of all men, to regulate their actings towards him, according to that sovereign light, which he hath erected in their own minds.
What the forms intended are, how composed, how used, how in some cases imposed, are things so known to all, that we shall not need to speak to them. Prayer is God's institution; and the reading of these forms, is that which men have made, and set up in the likeness thereof, or in compliance with it. For it is said, that the Lord Christ having provided the matter of prayer, and commanded us to pray, it is left
unto us or others, to compose prayer, as unto the manner of it, as we or they shall see cause. But besides, that there is no appearance of truth in the inference, the direct contrary rather ensuing on the proposition laid down; it is built on this supposition, that besides the provision of matter of prayer, and the command of the duty, the Lord Christ hath not moreover promised, doth not communicate unto his church, such spiritual aids and assistances, as shall enable them, without any other outward pretended helps, to pray according unto the mind of God: which we must not admit, if we intend to be Christians. In like manner, he hath provided the whole subject matter of preaching, and commanded all his ministers to preach :- but it doth not hence follow, that they may all or any of them make one sermon, to constantly read in all assemblies of Christians, without any variation; unless we shall grant also, that he ceaseth to give gifts unto men, for the work of the ministry. Our inquiry, therefore, will be, what place or use they may have therein, or in our duty, as performed by virtue thereof; which may be expressed in the ensuing observations :
1. The Holy Ghost, as a spirit of grace and supplications, is no where, that I know of, promised unto any to help or assist them in composing prayers for others; and therefore, we have no ground to pray for him or his assistance unto that end in particular; nor foundation to build faith or expectation of receiving him, upon, Wherefore, he is not in any especial or gracious manner concerned in that work or endeavour. Whether this be a duty that falls under his care as communicating gifts in general for the edification of the church, shall be afterward examined. That which we plead at present is, that he is no where peculiarly promised for that end, nor have we either command or direction to ask for his assistance therein. If any shall say that he is promised to this purpose, where he is so, as a Spirit of grace and supplication; I answer, besides what hath been already pleaded at large in the explication and vindication of the proper sense of that promise ; that he is promised directly, to them that are to pray, and not to them that make prayers for others, which themselves will not say is praying. But supposing it a duty in general so to compose prayers for our own or the use of others, it is lawful and warrantable to
pray for the aid and guidance of the Holy Ghost therein; not as unto his peculiar assistances in prayer, not as he is unto believers a Spirit of supplication, but as he is our sanctifier, the author and efficient cause of every gracious work and duty in us.
It may be, the prayers composed by some holy men under the Old Testament, by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost for the use of the church, will be also pretended. But as the inspiration or assistance which they had in their work was a thing quite of another kind, than any thing that is ordinarily promised, or that any persons can now pretend unto; so whether they were dictated unto them by the Holy Ghost to be used afterward by others as mere forms of prayer, may be yet farther inquired into.
The great plea for some of these external aids of prayer, is by this one consideration utterly removed out of the way. It is said that some of these prayers were prepared by‘great and holy men; martyrs it may be some of them, for the truth of the gospel and testimony of Jesus.”. And indeed had any men in the world a promise of especial assistance by the Spirit of God in such a work, I should not contend but the persons intended were as likely to partake of that assistance, as any others in these latter ages. Extraordinary supernatural inspiration they had not; and the holy apostles who were always under the influence and conduct of it, never made use of it unto any such purpose, as to prescribe forms of prayer, either for the whole church or single persons. Whereas, therefore, there is no such especial promise given into any, this work of composing prayer, is foreign unto the ty of prayer, as unto any interest in the gracious assistce which is promised thereunto, however it may be a comin duty, and fall under the help and blessing of God in geral. So some men, from their acquaintance with the matter
prayer above others, which they attain by spiritual light, nowledge, and experience, and their comprehension of the arguments which the Scripture directs unto, to be used and
in our supplications, may set down and express a hat is, the matter and outward form of it, that shall he substance of things to be prayed for, much more pdate to the conditions, wants, and desires of Chrisn others can who are not so clearly enlightened as
they are, nor have had the experience which they have had for those prayers, as they are called, which men without such light and experience compose of phrases and expressions gathered up from others, taken out of the Scripture, or invented by themselves, and cast into a contexture and me thod, such as they suppose suited unto prayer in general, be they never so well worded, so quaint and elegant in expressions, are so empty and jejune, as that they can be of no manner of use unto any, unless to keep them from praying whilst they live. And such we have books good store filled withal, easy enough to be composed by such as never in their lives prayed according to the mind of God. From the former sort much may be learned, as they doctrinally exhibit the matter and arguments of prayer. But the composition of them for others, to be used as their prayers, is that which no man hath any promise of peculiar spiritual assistance in, with respect unto prayer in particular.
2. No man hath any promise of the Spirit of grace and supplication to enable him to compose a form or forms of prayer for himself. The Spirit of God helps us to pray, 'not to make prayers in that sense. Suppose men, as before, in so doing, may have his assistance in general, as in other studies and endeavours; yet they have not that especial assistance which he gives as a spirit of grace and supplication, enabling us to cry ‘Abba, Father.' For men do not compose forms of prayer, however they may use them, by the immediate actings of faith, love, and delight in God, with those other graces, which he excites and acts in those supplications which are according to the divine will. Nor is God the immediate object of the actings of the faculties of the souls of men in such a work. Their inventions, memories, judgments, are immediately exercised about their present composition, and there they rest. Wherefore, whereas the exercise of grace immediately on God in Christ, under the formal notion of prayer, is no part of men's work or design when they compose and set down forms for themselves or others, if any, so do, they are not under a promise of especial assistance therein in the manner before declared. · 3. As there is no assistance promised unto the composition of such forms, so it is no institution of the law or gospel. Prayer itself, is a duty of the law of nature, and being of such